GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 9th  May 2004

NZ Government ban on GE tree trials essential

GE Free New Zealand is calling for the government to protect forestry interests and health by banning GE trees and stop the GE pine tree trial planted out in Rotorua.

The call comes as parliament are about to have a vote on reintroducing a moratorium on environmental GE release.

Pine trees plantations are already at risk due to their popularity and wide scale plantings and the incidence of wildings, with many sectors now turning their attention to new trees for forestry use. GE trees further risks forestry as a major contributor to the national economy. The FRI open air trial approved by ERMA for 20 years was cited as a possible source for GE pollen to spread, over 1000k in any direction, should pollen cones eventuate. These cones are to be handpicked and removed every 2 weeks.

"Have these scientists ever heard of human error or is there an underlying aim to spread their patented genes anyway. After all who would know until it was too late," said Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment. "What is worse is that the antibiotic genes used create a potential health hazard."

Recently the European Food Safety Authority recommended GE varieties, using classes of antibiotics known to be useful in medical applications, should not be utilised in crops.

"The same applies to these GE pine trees, if any pollen is released it could not only contaminate other trees but leave a legacy of resistance to a popular and safe antibiotic like ampicillin."

Ampicillin, one of the gene constructs used in the FRI trial is resistant to it, is commonly used for small children and babies due to its action of killing bacteria without releasing any toxins, unlike other antibiotics.

"People working with these pine trees should also be aware that contact with them may lead to their resistance and can be easily passed on to their households," said Carapiet, "We consider a ban on GE trees as the best way forward as it is well known that overseas forestry interests are looking to NZ as a useful offshore island on which to grow all sorts of GE trees. This risks both our native and commercial forests and public health."

GE Free New Zealand are calling for the reintroduction of the moratorium and a ban on GE trees. If trials are allowed to continue proceed automatic reviews of all approved GE trials should occur each year to allow fresh evidence of risk to be submitted to ERMA and avoid expensive reassessment processes currently in place.

Contact: Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

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